Unless it’s part of our job, most of us will probably never have our own art studio, let alone one that’s as big as a warehouse and filled to the brim with painting supplies. But that’s where Painting VR comes in: The app gives you 10,000 square feet of virtual real estate (along with unlimited buckets of paint and an arsenal of brushes) to help make your artistic dreams come true. And it’s out today on the Quest Platform for $19.99 USD.
Painting VR has a lot of features that make digital painting as accessible as possible: You can resize the canvas at any time, use the built-in browser to watch video tutorials, and, if you really want to go wild, paint with a customized drill that lets you combine different brushes together in one tool. Set up your supplies wherever you want in the warehouse, and once you have a few finished pieces under your belt, you can hang them on the walls to give your studio a more personalized touch.
Developer Oisoi originally offered an early access version of Painting VR through the App Lab program. Within a few months of its release in 2021, it had thousands of people from all over the world creating digital paintings, with some providing feedback and tips through the active Discord server. That experience helped Oisoi refine and improve Painting VR for the Quest Store release. In the future, the developer plans to add new multiplayer features that will let you visit other people’s studios to collaborate on projects or just to check out their work.
We spoke with Oisoi Co-Founder Wim Reygaert about the process of making Painting VR alongside its community and how he hopes it’ll inspire a new generation of artists.
Tell us a bit about Oisoi. How did the team get into VR development?
Wim Reygaert: Before founding Oisoi in 2018, I directed commercials and music videos for more than a decade. With that background, I had a short stint with 360° video but found it rather disappointing. I started looking into “real” VR shortly after that with the Oculus DK1 and was immediately hooked.
I was so fascinated by the possibilities that I decided to quit directing videos and start a VR studio. There wasn’t a lot of interest from potential customers back then, but after meeting Oisoi Co-Founder and Lead Developer Xander Clerck, we started building VR training prototypes for schools and universities. Alongside that, we built several experiences for artists and musicians as well.
The idea was to work for hire as a VR studio for two years, become really good at it, and then launch our own IP. It’s 2022, and Painting VR is now available on the Meta Quest Store, so I guess everything is still going as planned.
Where did the idea for Painting VR come from? Does anyone from the team consider themselves painters or like to paint as a hobby?
WR: At some point, we were building a WebGL experience for hip-hop & electronica producer NAH, a multiplayer gamified listening experience for his album Mortal Glitch. It was set in a strange bodega, and NAH wanted fans to be able to draw on the walls with blood. A couple of weeks after finishing that, Xander got inspired and started tinkering with the code that he’d been writing for NAH’s bodega. The blood became paint, the wall became a canvas, and the rest is history.
Xander has a background in animation, mostly writing tools for big productions, but he’s also very good at drawing (and, by now, painting in VR, obviously). And because of that, he’s been able to develop a tool that really speaks to artists and anyone else who wants to create in a satisfying and free environment—because he’s one of them. And it’s important to know that he’s developed most of Painting VR by himself, so it’s a very personal project, one that’s made with care and dedication.
What was your experience like releasing Painting VR on App Lab?
WR: When we started preparing the early access launch back in January 2021, we knew App Lab was an important step in the process. And so was a community. So we started releasing quite long yet relaxing painting process videos of Xander playtesting the app and shared those consistently on the numerous Quest-related Facebook Groups. We invited people who wanted to know more to our Discord community, and shortly after that we started dropping limited batches of beta keys there. This formed the basis of our community, and most of those people are still with us today.
On May 5, 2021, the app launched on App Lab. We kept on releasing videos on social media of Xander and other people painting, now gently pushing people toward our App Lab page, and within months we had thousands showing their work, complementing and criticizing that of others, and making the community stronger and more useful, not only for new people, but also for us.
Now, after almost a year, more than 20,000 people are playing Painting VR. Not bad when you consider that all marketing around the app was organic—we just didn’t have the budget for it. We did make money from the App Lab sales, but we put it all back in the development of the game. For us, it was important to come out of this with the best app we—as a three-person team—could make in that timeframe.
How did the feedback from that early access version help shape the Quest Store release?
WR: Because a lot of the early access players were very involved in and vocal about what we were making, it didn’t take long before we shifted our perspective on our community from “these are our potential buyers” to “these people will help us make an app others will want to try.” That realization, that thousands of supporters had our back and were willing to share their tips and thoughts, was an important moment for Painting VR.
When we laid out our roadmap for the development of the app, the undo function wasn’t on there. Not because we forgot, but because we thought it’d make people concentrate and paint more mindfully. A lot of our users disagreed with us, and after a couple of fruitless attempts to convince them from our point of view, we decided to let them vote. A whopping 96% wanted the undo button, so we never thought twice and implemented it a couple of months later.
This is a great example of giving the community the power to make decisions. And even if you know you personally might not like what they’ll decide, you also know that it’s best to listen if the numbers are that clear.
What’s your favorite part of the app and why?
WR: I’m not a good painter at all, I can hardly even draw, but my favorite tool in the app is the fat marker. I love doodling with it on a really big canvas, making awful little drawings without ever running out of space.
But there’s so much more I like about Painting VR, for instance the fact that we’ve developed an app that’s also environmentally friendly. There’s no waste, even if you ruin that 5x5 meter portrait of your dog three times before making a good one. You don’t have to worry about running out of paint because the supply is literally endless. I love the fact that we’ve been able to bring age-old techniques and brand-new technology together in an experience that doesn’t try to emulate the “real” painting experience but gives you a totally new way of creating.
How do you plan on updating Painting VR in the future?
WR: The main focus for us now is making Painting VR a social experience by giving it multiplayer features. We wanted to have multiplayer for this release. We aimed for that for a long time. But honestly we’ve underestimated the complexity of making sure people can paint together in their virtual studio. We have a version ready that works, but it’s far from what we want to give to our community, which is an easy and accessible system to create together and to be able to teach or learn from each other.
Any advice for people new to painting but who want to try Painting VR?
WR: I think the best advice we can give is to buy the app, type in a random word in the in-game web browser to get inspired (or take a walk, if that works better for you), and start painting.
It’s really easy, it feels great, and you can be sure of the fact that you’ll become better if you paint a lot. We’ve seen a lot of people gradually develop their own style in the app, even those who have never painted before. And it’s great to see that they even amaze themselves with what they’re capable of after a few weeks inside their virtual studio.
Put your artistic skills to the test in Painting VR for the Quest Platform.